The Right Quarterback At The Right Time – By Scott Salley
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|As a child growing up near Cincinnati, Ohio in the 70’s and 80’s, it was hard not to be star struck by the highlight films of Terry Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They were the class of the NFL in the 1970’s. Bradshaw seemed to be bigger than life as he flung the ball down field to Stallworth and Swann. As the early 80’s rolled around and injuries mounted on Bradshaw, the quarterback carousel began. In 1984, the Steelers brought in David Woodley, rookie Scott Campbell, and holdover journeyman Mark Malone. In the years following, the black and gold worked the draft and free agency and they had names like Brister, Bono, Blackledge, Strom, Tomczak, Miller, Quinn, Gonzalez, Wright, Martin, Batch, St. Pierre, O’Donnell, Stewart, and Maddox.
Neil O’Donnell took the Steelers back to the Super Bowl, but could not capture the past glory of Bradshaw. The Steelers were completely dominated by the Cowboys, who used Pittsburgh to win their third Superbowl in four years. Many people, including myself, believed that O’Donnell was actually the MVP of the game for the Cowboys. Kordell Stewart was a college quarterback who was drafted to be more of a gadget player. He eventually took over as Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback, and had several competitive seasons as a starter before being hooked for XFL MVP Tommy Maddox.
The 2004 draft was loaded with quarterback talent, but no one could have predicted what was about to happen. Eli Manning was about to turn the football world upside down. He didn’t want to play for the San Diego Chargers, who held the first pick. Ben Roethlisberger was the number two quarterback on most people’s draft boards. Fortunately for Steelers fans, Chargers coach Marty Shottenhiemer fell in love with Phillip Rivers at the Senior Bowl. So a draft day deal was struck. Eli to the Giants and Rivers to the Chargers. Big Ben was left out of the top ten. Ben fell to the Steelers as the 11th pick in the draft. The franchise that had been so close yet so far away from recent Super Bowl glory was about to get their first franchise quarterback since Bradshaw.
So, here we are a year later, and young Ben Roethlisberger has done something that only one other QB his age has ever done … Led his team to the Super Bowl. If the Steelers win he will be the youngest QB to win the big game. Win or loose the game this season, Big Ben could be the start of something special in Pittsburgh. In many ways, the Steelers have been the model of consistency in the NFL. Bill Cowher is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL. They are not usually competitive in the free agent market and often watch their best draft picks walk away for the big money. Even though they have lost a lot of talent over the years, they just plug someone else in his place and go on – business as usual.
Steelers pride is built on quality defense with nicknames like the Steel Curtain and Blitzburgh. Could this be the next generation of Steelers football? Only time will tell. But, the fact is, the Steelers finally have the missing piece of the puzzle. A young quarterback playing above his age to propel a rush-based offense to a new level that finally equals the great defense that the Steelers consistently maintain. In closing, if Pittsburgh wins the Super Bowl this season, the MVP might just be Eli Manning. If not for his refusal to play for the Chargers, Big Ben Roethlisberger most likely would be the starting QB for the Giants.